We asked five of our sportswriters here at the Toronto Observer to pen their thoughts on the “banana incident”. Here is Mike Woodrow’s. We also present Ryan Fines’, Jonathan Brazeau’s, Adam Martin’s and TJ Llewellyn’s.
Racism is still a facet of life that can show it’s ugly face from time to time, and the incident Thursday night at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ont. was the latest example of how society still has room to grow.
On a penalty shot attempt during a shootout of a pre-season NHL game between the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers, Wayne Simmonds was victimized by an act of taunting from an unidentified fan who threw a banana, or a peel, on the ice.
This is an obscene act that will unfortunately reflect poorly on the people of London and of Canada when it comes to hockey.
This isn’t the first instance of ignorance within the game.
In 2002, Kevin Weekes, then a goaltender with the Carolina Hurricanes, had a fan throw a banana at him following a game against the Montreal Canadiens at the Molson Centre.
Like Weekes before him, Simmonds has been tremendously calm about the situation. The young Scarborough native has commented to the media that he will let this incident roll off his back and he won’t think about it.
But how can he not? The younger generations of North American blacks have grown up with parents and grandparents that lived during the Civil Rights era and passed on their beliefs to their offspring.
Racism has existed in North America for centuries, and still was legal, through segregation, in parts of the United States as late as the 1970s.
Unfortunately, racism exists everywhere whether it’s legalized or not, and Canada is obviously still affected by it.
However, people born in the 1970s and beyond have had little experience with outright bigotry and because of that are more immune to the social impact that actions or words may have.
From my personal experience, I grew up in a home that never looked at race as a divider. By the time I was born, society had become more liberal and accepting.
Of cours, there have been incidents like the Rodney King riots, but I think that those events will happen every once in a while for a bit longer simply because some people choose to be ignorant.
Another reason why my generation is numb to the idea of race is because of what the entertainment industry feeds us.
Comedian Dave Chappelle made a skit for his television show years ago about a black white-supremacist. His motivation wasn’t racist, it was an attempt to unify people to explain that society had moved forward and it was acceptable to look at each other and make light of the past.
Because of the lack of understanding about the historical impact of racism that this generation has, sometimes people do things out of haste without thinking about the consequences.
But sports are supposed to be the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter in sports what the color of one’s skin is. All that matters is whether or not that player is great and excels at what they do.
Even in hockey, a sport that has traditionally been dominated by whites, players of black descent are becoming more prominent as time goes on and a lot of them are making a career out of the game.
I feel for Simmonds and the rest of the black hockey players in the world. What happened at the John Labatt Centre was one of the stupidest and most unfortunate incidents I’ve ever seen in sport in North America in my lifetime (23 years).
Being educated about the history and context of race relations is the only way things can change. People need to smarten up and realize that sometimes actions speak louder than words, despite the meaning of the words.